Cassis is a slice of seaside dreams, a true Provence treasure. Situated along the Mediterranean Sea, Cassis is home to the characteristic Massif de Calanques, the highest cliffs in France, stunningly dressed in white limestone. These deep inlets shelter the terraced vineyards of Cassis, which are truly distinct from their Provençal neighbors.
Established as an Appellation d’Origine Protégée (AOP) in 1936, Cassis was one of the first in the region. The village of Cassis is located 12 miles east of the port city of Marseille and is one of the few local appellations comprised of a single, tiny commune. While most nearby appellations were originally cultivated by Greek outposts, Cassis is based in Ligurian origins. Blessed by 3,000 hours of annual sunshine, cool maritime winds and the freshening effects of the Mistral, Cassis is truly a spot set aside for gorgeous wines and also a Luxe Provence favorite haven for seaside lunches, market shopping and swimming.
Cassis is the only region in Provence to produce a majority of white wine, regulated to contain at least 80% Marsanne. This varietal adds beautiful aromatics and finesse, an elegant profile for the refreshing, high-quality white wines of Cassis. Clairette is also a common component, adding fresh acidity to balance the body of Marsanne. A touch of red wines and a strong showing of rosé wines are also cultivated in Cassis – blends of Cinsault, Grenache and Mourvèdre.
Cassis white wines offer complex citrus and fruit aromas. Touches of lime blossom, honey and wild herbs balance a slightly salty trace, which is said to be a kiss of sea on the vineyards. Traditional Provençal foods such as bouillabaisse and grilled seafood are natural pairing partners.
Here is our Luxe Provence Cassis Wine Tasting Guide, with wine recommendations and pairing suggestions:
Up first is, Clos Sainte Magdeleine, situated in the Calanques National Park, surrounded by the captivating cliffs in a protected area. Four generations of the Zafiropulo family have been proprietors at Clos Sainte Magdeleine and are motivated to preserve the area from urban cultivation and soil degradation through their practice of certified Organic and Sustainable Agriculture. Vines range from 15 to 40 years old and are terraced along the slopes of Cap Canaille and have the finest sea views of the area. Though the estate just turned 80 years old, the modern underground cellar is optimized to maintain conditions year round, and features stainless steel, concrete tanks and amphorae. Try the certified organic AOC Cassis White, a complex balance of salty minerality and honeyed peach. Pair with herbed goat cheese or grilled octopus salad. The tasting room offers 45-minute tours twice daily of the vineyards and cave during the busy summer season but be sure to book ahead.
Domaine du Bagnol was purchased by Jean-Louis Genovesi in 1997, but evidence of vineyards in the Bagnol space date back to 1430. Genovesi’s son Sebastien took over the domaine after completing his training in 2003, continuing the reputation for high-quality wines with a sincere Cassis profile. The domaine functions as naturally as possible; their initial certified organic release was 2014.
Domaine du Bagnol offers a lovely family-run tasting room on their property which has been recently renovated to receive guests and small groups. We have experienced both a great, informative group tour and tastings on several occasions both by Sebastien and his lovely wife. We advise to call ahead to be sure the tasting room is open.
Cuvée Marquis des Fesques is a wine of exception, a blend of Clairette and Marsanne made from two parcels at the foot of Cap Canaille, including some 40-year-old vines. Prepare a dish of tapenade or a gorgeous crespeou (layered omelet) to pair with Cuvée Marquis des Fesques.
Domaine du Paternel was created in Cassis in 1951 by Pierre Cathinaud. Since 2009, Pierre’s nephew Jean-Pierre and the Santini family have managed the vineyards working with Bernard and Monique Piché for the production and marketing of the Domaine Couronne de Charlemagne wines. Today both the Domaine du Paternel and Domaine Couronne de Charlemagne wines are certified organic. The family members work alongside a team of motivated and skilled employees, and together they apply themselves to continuing the work that was begun over sixty years ago and produce a lovely minerally, Blanc de Blanc made up of 30% each of Ugni Blanc, Clairette, Marsanne, and 10% Doucillon pairing beautifully with fresh fish.
The Domaine du Paternel tasting room is open daily, but it’s always good to verify hours by calling ahead. Our last few visits were very pleasant.
Domaine de la Ferme Blanche comprises 30 hectares of vines, under the care of François Paret, nephew of Pierre Imbert, one of the anchors in establishment of the Cassis AOP. Domaine de la Ferme Blanche is one of the oldest domaines in the area, with a history dating back to 1714. Paret works with his daughter Jérômine and Philippe Garnier, oenologist. Together the team aims for small, high-quality yields and treats the vineyards naturally, without the use of chemicals. Try the Cuvée Excellence, a blend of Marsanne and Clairette or for something unique, the 100% Mourvèdre, a red of wine of distinct freshness. Pair Excellence with artichokes barigoule, a rich classic dish of artichokes and Provençal mushrooms. The Mourvèdre would be magic with a rack of lamb dressed with aromatic herbs.
However, the Domaine de la Ferme Blanche tasting room is not exactly a welcoming stop in Cassis. A bit of a shame, however, their recent white releases, including the 2015 Cuvée offers a lovely mix of Marsanne, Clairette, Ugni Blanc and Sauvignon. For a more tourist-friendly visit, try Chateau de Fontcreuse and sample their 2015 Cuvée blanc.
Cassis is a spectacular spot. Cassis wines are world-famous for being unique and appealing. Once you’ve finished visiting the winemakers and their terraced domaines, visit the village to ramble streets filled with welcoming cafés and their abundant street-side tables. The markets are held in the mornings in the village on Wednesday and Fridays until 1pm and is one of our favorite sources for weekly produce and discovering lovely artisanal products.
Enjoy shopping from vendors with colorful and scented products decorating their storefronts. Absorb a view of boats bobbing on the harbor, colorful buildings reflected in the sparkling sea. Establish a blanketed, umbrella-shaded spot on the beach where gem-blue waters and white cliff shadows are mystifying and handsome.
Even compared to other wines in Provence, the wines here are particularly special. Enjoy the beauty and luxury of wine tasting in Cassis.
More information and travel notes:
Clos Saint Magdeleine
Domaine du Bagnol
12, avenue de Provence – 13260 Cassis
Great family-run tasting room. Call ahead to ensure availability.
Domaine de la Ferme Blanche
D559, 13260 Cassis
Photography Credits: Clos Sainte Magdeleine and Domaine de la Ferme Blanche landscape shots courtesy of vineyards. All other images by Tarik Koivisto unless otherwise noted.
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